In high school, the identifier often used to describe me was cute. I say this not to brag, because I didn’t find this something to brag about. Cute means smiles, silliness and brainlessness. Puppies, cheerleaders, and baby rolls are cute. Not a 5’10” highschooler trying to take herself SERIOUSLY already. I wanted to be an actress, an athlete, I wanted to change the world and better mankind. I didn’t get pretty, I never had brilliant, and I sure as heck wasn’t labeled as mysterious. I wanted to be all these things that I wasn’t. Cute. Bah.
I’ve learned, however, that cute has a longer shelf life than beautiful. Cute isn’t an insult. Grandma’s are cute. Some of my favorite movies are also. And in my present day, I write CUTE.
I just checked goodreads to see how early reader reviews are looking for GOING VINTAGE (yes, I check goodreads, but only in spurts. I will try not to check again for a few months now. Or weeks). These are some complimentary phrases:
(exclamation points are my own)
Other reviews are less positive. Some find my writing to be meaningless, fluffy, trite, predictable, vague, stupid, boring, and one kind reader once wrote to tell me she wanted to cut me. Keep those positive opinions coming, kids!
If I let it, these words become as much a part of my writing process as my writing pants or character charts. I start to ask the most toxic questions, like, Who cares? What does this matter? Why try? Is seven diet cokes too many?
Writing isn’t only something I do, it’s something that I am. Take it or leave it, I write and live in an optimistic, rose-colored world or splendor and delight. For this, I will probably never win a major award or write a book that speaks to the core of my generation. I don’t do gritty or profound or twisted or raw. I still love to read these kinds of stories, still love to understand other world views and backgrounds. But when I spend a year with a book, I prefer it to be something that makes me giddy and satisfied, an escape for me and for you. There are days where I question this, days that I wish I was more of something else, but that’s like wishing I was shorter or had thicker hair.
After I started to write this blog entry, I found that I wrote almost exactly the same post 5 years ago. Isn’t it funny how the same themes come up in our lives, just like in our stories? I vaguely remember writing this as I revised Princess For Hire for my newly-signed agent (and went on to sell it at auction two months later). Although I want to edit this mother, I leave it here for you in all my pre-published glory.
Written on April 3, 2008
The other night, I asked hubby if he’d get the girls down so I could get a few more writing things done. Hubby obediently grabbed the kiddos and smiled. “Come on. Mommy has to write The Next Great American Novel.”
For some reason, the comment made me twitch. I sat, paralyzed, staring at my computer screen for the next fifteen minutes.
Let’s just get this out in the open now:
I have not written, nor shall I ever write, the Next Great American Novel.
I’m rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for the bazillionth time. Blows me away how at different times in my life, I pick up on different themes in this book. How the emotions are still raw and fresh, how I put it down and want to be better. To do better. And, whoa, I wish I could write like that!
And then there’s my magical tweeny romp (Yeah, I said romp. Big fan of romps). I’m sure it’s destined for a pink cover–which would be poetic since the sweats I wear whilst writing say PINK on the bum.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of it’s glittery princess pinkiness. I hope readers love reading it half as much as I loved writing it. But I’ll tell you a secret–I started this book two years ago and I quit for awhile because I thought I wasn’t, I don’t know, delving into the human experience. When I idealized writers in high school, I pictured them hacking at a type writer with a stern expression and a black beret. That, or barrels of hard liquor and drowning in their own angst (Maybe that was all the punk music I listened to?)
I believed POWERFUL writing equaled SERIOUS writing. Which is a very limited view, and I could give you a million reasons and a million books why, but I’m in the middle of an epiphany here.
This silly struggle reminds me of a small identity crisis I suffered when moving from the West to PA. I decided when we moved, I would use my maiden name, Taylor, as my first name. Ditch Lindsey and the negative connotations that went with it. Start fresh. Because the thing that bugged me about being ME was everyone viewed me one way, and I wanted to be something–someONE– else. I was, on occasion, described as funny by my fans, snarky by my critics. And this was all well and fine, but what I really wanted to be was
No one EVER labeled me as sweet. If you looked up sweet in the dictionary, you’d have to scroll down to the antonym section, and THEN there’d be my face. So I figured I’d change my name and become the sweet girl that bakes her neighbors cookies and intuitively knows how to fix everyone’s emotional breakdowns and talks in a sing song voice uh… other sweet things (see, it’s not natural for me).
Well, Taylor didn’t last long. Because I was not, AM not, Taylor. I’m Lindsey-eye-rolling-one-liner-but-still-can-occasionally-bust-out-heavier-stuff-Leavitt. And I finally came to terms with this:
That’s Just as Great. Just as Necessary. Just as Important.
(except for moments of extreme emotional distress. You don’t want the funny girl around joking about Grandpa Frank’s gambling habit during his funeral. You want sweetness. So I try to fake it then. Or just avoid talking.)
In the same way, it’s ok–nay, better than ok!– to write something that makes people smile and laugh and take a break from the so-called human experience. My writer friend, Lisa, wrote this to me when I was having one of my Who-am-I-as-a-writer? moments. (Lisa, I hope you don’t mind me quoting your excellence)
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it takes awhile
to find our strengths. But once we figure it out, we need to go with
it. The market is too competitive to try and be good where others are
great. So, my strength seems to be novels in verse. Yours is
definitely humor. And so, you are going to have to find stories where
you can really make it shine, and it may be that you aren’t going to
be a literary writer, but more of a commercial one. I think sometimes
we look at other books and long to do THAT (I know I do) instead of
embracing the kind of book we do well.”
This really hit home for me. Because Harper Lee really rocked my world in high school, but you know what? So did Meg Cabot (ok, read her right AFTER high school. Was going to let you assume I was that young, but I’m going with the honesty theme for this post). Or PG Wodehouse, who said about his own writing…
“I go in for what is known in the trade as ‘light writing’ and those who do that – humorists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at.”
What a relief to hear P.G. recognize my fear for me–that my lightness would be considered lesser. Even though I never thought this about Sir Wodehouse. Bow down to you, Jeeves!
I think it’s key for writers go through these moments of self-assessment in order to become comfortable in their craft. Who am I? Where do I fit? Do I fit? Do I care if I fit? Do these sweats still fit?(Of course they fit. Even though the PINK looks a little bigger nowadays).
So, not the NGAN. But I’m happy with where my writing is going. I’m happy in my PINK sweatpants.
I’m not one for body art (my husband is actually in the process of getting his little teenage rebellion removed), but if I was, THIS WOULD BE MY NEXT (read: only) TATTOO.
Maybe I’ll make a snuggie out of it. A nice area rug. One of those banners they fly behind airplanes at the beach. Or just buy 10,000000,2020203824.304230 copies so I can display that beauty of a spine until eternity. And you too can own this beautiful jacket (with accompanying book) for the low low price of $16.99.
2 months until release, kids. I am slightly excited about this one.
I’m going to delete my old LiveJournal blog in a few weeks/months/whenever I get to it, so first I’m combing through old entries and making a “best of” kind of book for myself. I started blogging in 2005, five years before my first book was published, and I love reading through my journey to publication. Mostly. There is a lot that I just don’t want on the world wide web anymore, so over the next couple of weeks I’m sharing a few throwback pieces with you. THEN DESTROYING THE REST. Get it while you can.
This is a post I wrote on March 9, 2007.
I’ve spent a good chunk of the day packing, an activity I do not recommend because it leads to backaches and heavy bouts of nostalgia. I mooned over pics of hubby and I in high school, back when we were chubby-cheeked and tan. Then I read through some old journals and came across this picture taken at my seventh grade water park trip.
I used to rip up pictures of myself in junior high and hide them in the couch. I don’t know why I thought the couch was a good hiding place and not the, oh I don’t know, garbage can. Maybe it was a cry for help. Maybe I was just too lazy to get up. Somehow, this survived. I used to OBSESS about this picture–and it’s not because the neon green on my suit put Kelly Kapowski to shame. At the time, this picture was living proof to anyone that dared to argue that I was unquestionably hideous. If I ever started to believe for a moment this wasn’t true, one glimpse of this picture would prove me wrong.
I wasn’t an insecure kid. I was smart, did sports and other activities, and had friends. I enjoyed life. But this picture is part of what held me back from true confidence.
My thighs were huge. My chest was flat. I didn’t know how to get my bangs high enough. I didn’t know how to dress. My ears looked pokey, my nose too ski-jumpy and I could not figure out how to smile for a picture. In short, I believed I would never “get” a guy, unless he was visually impared or especially desperate.
I started to get over myself in high school when a guy friend of mine admitted he had a crush on me in junior high. He said he followed me around the day this picture was taken because he thought I looked so good in the suit. I wanted to pull it out and point out my obvious flaws, but I’d been taught you shouldn’t argue a compliment. Especially when it makes you look psycho.
I look at this girl now and wish she could have known how beautiful she was, not because of how she looks in a bathing suit, but because of who she is. I long to show her how lucky she is to have a fully functional and healthy body, and that boobs and butts aren’t ultimately what’s going to get the guy.
But I can’t go back. The closest thing I have to a time machine is my writing. When I write, I think of her. Of me. Of who I was then and who I am now. What will make my writing really worthwhile is if I can someday reach a girl like me and somehow help her to be stronger, smarter, and secure enough in herself to rip up her “ugly pic” and get on with her life.
ARCs are going out now for GOING VINTAGE now, which means bloggers/reviewers/librarians/teachers are starting to read my book. Or at least adding it to a pile of books next to their bed. Or a list on their e-reader.
As an author, I can still convince myself that my book is whatever I wanted it to be during that blissful time after I’ve written it but before people are reading it. Once it’s read, though, I lose that ownership. Readers will interpret my words based on their background, tastes, and viewpoint. Some will like my book. Some will not. And honestly, before every publication date, I have to give myself a little pep talk about that. This usually involves me sitting in front of a mirror and repeating, “I’m (my book is) good enough. I’m (my book is) smart enough. And doggonit, people like me (my book. Sometimes).”
Thanks Stuart Smalley. Your pearls of wisdom continue to inspire.
So already, some people have read my book. Authors, who also kindly blurbed my book. Blurbing is a gracious act, because not only do the authors take the time to write something positive, but they spent a few hours reading my book. And it is such an amazing bonus when it’s an author who I personally read and adore. So here they be:
“Lindsey Leavitt’s best book yet. Mallory’s voice is addictive! GOING VINTAGE is witty, hilarious, real…impossible not to love!” ~Becca Fitzpatrick, NYT bestselling author of Hush, Hush series
I adore Becca. I get nervous when she reads my writing because her romantic tension is so amazing. And if you don’t know who Patch is yet, well, go forth. Merry Christmas
“GOING VINTAGE is heartfelt, funny, and full of insight. I wanted to jump into the pages and become friends with the whole cast.”
– Sarah Ockler, bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer and The Book of Broken Hearts
I’ve read all of Sarah’s books to date (and bawled my way through Twenty Boy Summer) but the one I recommend this month is Bittersweet. You’ll want to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket with some hot chocolate.
“Lindsey Leavitt made me want to go vintage. Readers everywhere will identify with this smart and likable heroine, as well as with her yearning for a simpler and (seemingly) less complicated time.”
~ Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries, as well as 1 million+ amazing, bestselling titles
Speechless. So speechless. Meg Cabot is hands-down one of my all time favorite authors and a huge reason why I write YA. I totally cried when I got this blurb. Really just honored, as cheesy as that sounds.
Just over 3 months until release! Meanwhile, two days left on my book giveaway. Hurry, before time (and the world) ends.
When 2012 first started and there was all this Mayan calendar, end-of-mankind doomsday clogging up my news yahoo feed, my first reaction was not, Oh, my poor children! or Oh, save mankind!
No. It was…
CRAP! I have a book coming out in 2013.
I put all that work into this… this… Work of ART and now the apocalypse is going to hit and everyone will be so busy eating their own limbs out of starvation that they won’t want to cuddle up with a book about abandoning technology. Plus, I want to watch the San Francisco Giants accept their World Series glory next April. And there’s the next season of Mad Men. Oh, and I want to see my children grow up, ect.
Look, I want to cover my bases here. If life as we know it shuts down in two weeks, I want to go out with a bang. So I offer you this simple giveaway. Below are five books coming out in early 2013. Five ARCs (advance reader copies) you can read and own now, before time stands still. Because if everything ends, wouldn’t books be the thing you miss the most?
(One of my favorite Twilight Episodes Evah!)
*Signed copy of GOING VINTAGE by Lindsey Leavitt
*Signed copy of FALLING FOR YOU by Lisa Schroeder
THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab
ALSO KNOWN AS by Robin Benway
JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman
Why is that picture upside down? Why is it all dark and blurry? I don’t know, okay? I DON’T KNOW! But those are books, and they are in my possesion, and soon they can be in yours, so enter already.
US residents ONLY
Now, I need to finish planning my Disneyland trip with my 2-year-old. She turns 3 the day after poop hits the fan, so I thought I would share the wonder that is The Mouse before everything goes to pot. Plus, she still gets free admission.
All you have to do is fill out the little form below. And here’s to 2013 (Oh, please. PLEASE LET THERE BE A 2013)